Like the sub-prime crisis faced by banks, the risk of people living for up to 20 years after retirement seems to have crept up on an industry using historical data to calculate people's chances of an early death.
Pension funds and insurers say the mounting burden of protracted pension payments is concentrated on a small group of providers: them.
Global private sector liabilities for pensions are at about $25 trillion (R180 trillion), according to a January Pensions Institute report, which cited estimates that every extra year of life expectancy at age 65 adds about 3 percent to the value of some UK pension liabilities.
Several factors - the market crash brought on by subprime lending, new solvency rules for insurers due in 2012 and the stampede of baby-boomers to retirement age - are adding urgency to providers' efforts to spread their exposure.
If that seems like a small group, the evidence is it's the population segment most likely to grow. There are about 450 000 centenarians in the world today and experts estimate that there could be 1 million by 2030.